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August 2019

Int J Epidemiol. 1995 Oct; 24(5): 1006-12.

Use of traditional and orthodox health services in urban Zimbabwe.

Winston CM, Patel V.

St Tydfil's Hospital, Merthyr Tydfil, Mid Glamorgan, UK.

BACKGROUND. Health care in Zimbabwe is provided by both orthodox and traditional care providers. With formal medical services under economic strain it is important to understand the extent of consulting with traditional care providers and their effectiveness. METHODS. A cross-sectional community survey recorded consultations and self-treatment for episodes of illness among 1251 individuals in 222 households randomly selected in two high-density suburbs of Harare, Zimbabwe. Three dependent variables (illness experience, consultation behaviour and choice of care provider) were analysed against a range of sociodemographic, episode-related and outcome measures. RESULTS. More than one-third of the sample had experienced an illness and 83% of these had led to consultation. Medical services were consulted eight times more often than traditional ones. Non-consulting behaviour was associated with lack of money or low perceived significance of problems. Physical problems were usually taken to medical clinics where their outcome was better, but non-specific pain and other problems did no better with medical or traditional care. CONCLUSIONS. While members of the community appear to recognize physical problems and take them to medical care, traditional and orthodox medical consultations appear to be equally effective for non-specific pain or non-specific physical problems. The role of traditional medicine in relation to non-specific physical problems and psychological problems is one which deserves further examination from both clinical and administrative perspectives. Poverty appears to be associated with poorer outcomes; this is a potentially important issue in times of increasing economic hardship.

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